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Lynch: US investigators continue to pursue soccer corruption

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BALTIMORE (AP) American criminal investigators are continuing to pursue soccer corruption, according to outgoing Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who initiated the prosecution of fraudulent FIFA executives.

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Lynch attracted global attention by jolting the world’s most popular sport, launching sprawling criminal cases that burst into view with early morning arrests in May 2015 at a luxury hotel in Zurich ahead of the FIFA presidential election.

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The FIFA case, which started when Lynch was a U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn before being appointed the country’s chief law enforcement officer in 2015, has led to more than 40 people or organizations being charged.

“The work that we did, the cooperation from our international partners really made that case possible as well. It continues. It’s ongoing,” Lynch said in an interview with The Associated Press.

“The first trial is scheduled for October, and the investigation continues,” she added.

The American case alleges bribery, fraud, money laundering, and racketeering, including in the award of hosting rights for FIFA’s showpiece World Cup and broadcasting rights for the tournament’s qualifying matches and other international competitions.

“FIFA is supposed to help (children) by building soccer fields and maintaining them,” Lynch said. “So when you have an organization that has so much power, so many resources … and to have them just abdicate that responsibility for personal gain to me, was and is, particularly galling.”

The scandal helped to topple FIFA President Sepp Blatter, whose 17-year reign ended in October 2015 when financial wrongdoing was unearthed in a parallel Swiss investigation.

Lynch’s tenure ends when the President-elect Donald Trump is inaugurated on Friday and Sen. Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican, is the choice to succeed her. Highlighting the importance of pursuing cases against sports-related sleaze, Lynch said the FIFA investigation “exemplifies why corruption is so corrosive” in society.

“When you’re talking about sports, that’s how we teach our kids about fair play and sportsmanship,” she said. “We want them to look up to these sports figures. It’s a character building exercise for them to play sports. So when someone takes that and turns it into the exact opposite and uses the American financial system to do so, that’s when we have to crack down.

“And that’s the lesson, I think, of that case – not just the cooperation and the hard work, but also corruption is corrosive on so many levels in terms of the financial system, in terms of the legal harm, but also the way it kills ideals – in young people, in people who look up to their figures and place their trust in organizations.”

One of the highest-ranking executives to plead guilty is former CONCACAF President Jeffrey Webb of the Cayman Islands, who awaits sentence at his Atlanta area home after pleading guilty to racketeering charges.

Chuck Blazer, CONCACAF’s No. 2 official from 1990-2011 who was the top American on FIFA’s executive committee, helped Lynch to unearth wrongdoing in soccer. Her name was on 2013 court documents detailing a plea agreement that led to Blazer wearing a wire to assist the investigation. Blazer pleaded guilty to racketeering, conspiracy and tax evasion, including admitting receiving payments in a $10 million bribe scheme to support South Africa’s successful bid to host the 2010 World Cup.

“(The FIFA) case to me also symbolizes what we do at DOJ (Department of Justice), which is we look at things that affect peoples’ everyday lives,” Lynch said. “Soccer is the most popular game in the world.”

Harris reported from London.

World Cup’s only black coach says there should be more

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MOSCOW (AP) — The only black coach at this year’s World Cup says there is a need for more in soccer.

“In European countries, in major clubs, you see lots of African players. Now we need African coaches for our continent to go ahead,” Senegal’s Aliou Cisse said through a translator on Monday, a day ahead of his nation’s World Cup opener against Poland.

[ MORE: Where to watch Tuesday’s games, feat. Colombia and Egypt ]

The percentage of black players at this year’s tournament and with clubs in the world’s top leagues is far higher.

Cisse was captain of Senegal when it reached the 2002 quarterfinals in the nation’s only previous World Cup appearance.

“I am the only black coach in this World Cup. That is true,” Cisse said. “But really these are debates that disturb me. I think that football is a universal sport and that the color of your skin is of very little importance.”

[ MORE: Harry Kane “buzzing” after two goals | Southgate encouraged ]

FIFA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Cisse cited Florent Ibenge, the coach of Congo’s national team, as a sign of progress.

“I think we have a new generation that is working, that is doing its utmost, and beyond being good players with a past of professional footballers,” Cisse said. “We are very good in our tactics, and we have the right to be part of the top international coaches.”

Africa’s best performance at the World Cup has been to reach the quarterfinals, accomplished by Cameroon in 1990, Senegal in 2002 and Ghana in 2010.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

“I have the certainty that one day an African team, an African country, will win the World Cup,” Cisse said. “It’s a bit more complicated in our countries. We have realities that are not there in other continents, but I think that the African continent is full of qualities. We are on the way, and I’m sure that Senegal, Nigeria or other African countries will be able win, just like Brazil, Germany or other European countries.”

A lack of minority managers also has been documented at the club level. The Sports People’s Think Tank said in November there were just three minority managers among the 92 English professional clubs as of Sept. 1.

World Cup: Saudi team safe after plane caught fire mid-flight

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The Saudi Arabian national team arrived alive and well in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, on Monday after a terrifying incident that saw their plane catch fire in the air.

[ MORE: Where to watch Tuesday’s games, feat. Colombia and Egypt ]

The blaze was caused by “a technical failure in one of the airplane engines,” which the airline, Rossiya, claims was caused by a bird flying into the engine. Each of the planes engines were reportedly in operation upon landing at its final destination.

The Saudi Arabian Football Federation posted a message on Twitter later on Monday, saying they “would like to reassure everyone that all the Saudi national team players are safe, after a technical failure in one of the airplane engines that has just landed in Rostov-on-Don airport, and now they’re heading to their residence safely.”

The Green Falcons will face Uruguay in Rostov, hoping to rebound from their tournament-opening 5-0 loss to Russia on Thursday, in each side’s second game of Group A action on Wednesday (11 a.m. ET).

Seismologists clarify Mexico fans didn’t cause earthquake

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MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico’s National Seismological Service says there was seismic activity around the country’s capital Sunday, but it wasn’t linked to soccer fans celebrating their country’s game-winning goal vs. Germany at the World Cup.

[ MORE: Where to watch Tuesday’s games, feat. Colombia and Egypt ]

The service says in a report that there were two small earthquakes at 10:24 a.m. and 12:01 p.m. The goal came around 11:35 a.m. local time.

A geological institute reported Sunday that seismic detectors had registered a false earthquake that may have been generated by “massive jumps” by fans.

[ MORE: Harry Kane “buzzing” after two goals | Southgate encouraged ]

Mexico’s Seismological Service explained Monday that the city’s normal bustle of traffic and other movement causes vibrations that are detected by sensitive instruments.

It says those vibrations notably quieted during the match as people gathered in front of TVs to watch, and rose after the goal.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 6 — Colombia vs. Japan; Salah’s debut?

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Day 6 of the 2018 World Cup is up next, on Tuesday — and would you believe it? — there’s another three games on the schedule. This whole “back-to-back-to-back games of soccer” thing isn’t so bad.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Up first, it’s the 2018 debut of Colombia, winners of tens hundreds of millions of hearts in 2014, as they take on Japan. In the day’s other Group H fixture, it’ll be Robert Lewandowski and Poland facing Sadio Mane and Senegal. Star power aplenty.

Then, we swing things back around to Group A, where the hosts Russia will look to continue their hot start against Egypt with Mohamed Salah expected to make his World Cup debut.

Below is Tuesday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Tuesday, June 19

Group H
Colombia vs. Japan: Saransk, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Poland vs. Senegal: Moscow, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group A
Russia vs. Egypt: St. Petersburg, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE